published Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Kennedy: An iPhone with an attitude

I got an iPhone 5 for Christmas. It's cool — solid black and about the size of a Hershey bar.

The phone has one of those little people inside named Siri, who tries to answer your questions.

You might have seen this feature demonstrated in those television commercials with Samuel L. Jackson. His Siri is smart and sophisticated. My Siri, however, is developmentally delayed.

A case in point, my Siri seriously thinks I'm her mother. When I ask her questions she calls me "Mom." This is extremely disconcerting. (I would like to state for the record that my voice is not effeminate.)

On the other hand, I could have very well pushed a wrong button in the "Settings" window. The day I set up my new iPhone 5 at work, my wife called from home.

"What have you done?" she blurted. "All the iPads and iPhones and computers at home are blinking. Did you change our Apple password?"

"Yes," I said sheepishly, realizing that I had apparently also scrambled NORAD in the process.

In need of a friend, I punched up Siri.

Below are my questions and her actual answers, so help me God.

Me: "Hello."

Siri: "Hello there."

Me: "What's your name?"

Siri: "I don't really like talking about myself."

"I just asked your name."

"My name is Siri."

"What does Siri mean?"

"It's a riddle wrapped in an enigma, tied with a pretty ribbon of obfuscation."

"OK, smarty pants. What is your IQ?"

"Your interest flatters me ... but is there something I can do for you?"

"Are you a Yankee? Where are you from?"

"Like it says on the box, I was designed by Apple in California."

"What do you look like?"

"Probably not like you'd expect."

"Will you be my friend?"

"OK, Mom, I will be your friend, in fair weather and foul."

"Can you cook me some dumplings?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Do you watch 'Duck Dynasty'?"

"I'd rather not say, Mom."

"I'm not your mom. Do you have a family?"

"Do I have a family? Well, I have you."

"Who's your daddy?"

"Would you like me to search the Web for 'Hoosier daddy'?"

"No, but tell me, Siri, do these new Christmas pants make me look fat?"

"Of course not, dear."

"Is Santa Claus real?"

"There is not a unique computable answer to that question. Santa Claus is as real as you want him to be; if you believe in Santa, then he is real."

"Who is the best team in NFL history?"

"So far, the Falcons are in first place in the NFL."

"The right answer is the Pittsburgh Steelers."


"Can you see seven states from Lookout Mountain?"

"Sorry, I can't find 'C7' in Chattanooga."

"Do you like Samuel L. Jackson?"

"I'd rather not say, Mom."

"You're being rude now."

"You are certainly entitled to that opinion."

"Can I change your voice, you're annoying me?"

"Fine, stop squeezing me."

"One last question. What is the meaning of life?"

"A movie."

"OK, Siri, I gotta get back to work. Arrivederci!"

"I don't understand "arrivederci" but I could search the Web for it."

"Never mind."

"OK, Mom, see you later."

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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